Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart has attacked the Victorian government for its failure to increase funding for Catholic schools while boosting support for public schools by $1.3 billion and raising state teachers' annual salaries by $5,000.
The Age reports Archbishop Hart and Catholic education chief Stephen Elder warned that funding to give Catholic staff a pay rise in line with the $2 billion wage deal public teachers received this week might have to come from increased fees or cuts to classroom programs.
"The situation is desperate," Archbishop Hart told the newspaper. "We are very disappointed in the present situation. We believe those teachers who have received support from the Government deserve it … but we have been placed in a difficult position.
"We want higher standards in education and to do that we have to have good teachers. I'm afraid that if nothing is done, we will fall further behind."
The warning comes after public school graduate teachers were this week granted a $5,000 pay rise, while those at the top of the classroom scale got $10,000 more — making them the best paid teachers in the nation.
Education Minister Bronwyn Pike also revealed recently the Government was considering aligning Catholic schools more closely with the state system, partly because they had similar problems, particularly in socially disadvantaged communities.
But while public schools received $1.3 billion more in this week's state budget, Catholic schools received "not one additional cent", Mr Elder said.
He said Catholic employers, in wage negotiations with the independent teachers union, were committed to paying their staff as much as public school teachers, as had been the case in previous agreements.
But as Victorian government funding for Catholic schools was lower than in other states, it would be difficult to match the pay rises without support, he said.
Ms Pike said the budget committed $399 million to independent and Catholic schools, which included $380 million in recurrent funding for operational costs, $11.5 million through specific purpose grants and $7.5 million in capital works.
Showdown looms over pay parity (The Age, 10/5/08)